DC Spending $11M to Address Backlog of Unemployment Claims

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As thousands of D.C. residents who have been out of work for months due to the pandemic are still waiting to start receiving their unemployment checks, District officials acknowledge the backlog and are hiring hundreds of people to help get caught up.

“We have currently about 3,500 pending claims,” D.C. Department of Employment Services Director Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes said. “These are folks who have filed waiting to get a decision from us.”

A woman who didn’t want to be identified told News4 she lost her job in June and applied for unemployment benefits in early July but is still waiting for her first check. She repeatedly tried to file online.

“Online they have you file a claim,” she said. “Sometimes it would get me to the form to fill out creating a password, asking all these questions, and you click, and it says, ‘Oh, we’re too busy. Give us a call.’”

She said she tried calling over and over again every day for more than two months, keeping records of every call, staying on hold for hours at a time but never getting through.

Then in October, after talking to an actual person, she got a benefits letter saying she was approved. But she still wasn’t getting any money, so she kept calling.

“That’s what’s frustrating,” she said. “I’m college educated; I ought to be able to figure something out. What am I doing wrong? And somebody help me, and the people I’m calling on to help me aren’t there.”

Experiences like hers are part of the reason Mayor Muriel Bowser allocated $11 million to hire more call takers and improve technology to reduce the backlog.

“We’re going to bring on approximately 200 people, who are going to support not only call taking but also processing claims,” Morris-Hughes said.

Beginning Friday, a new unemployment benefits program will be launched allowing those who have lost a job but still have a part-time job to begin collecting unemployment checks

After the situation of the woman News4 spoke was brought to the director’s attention, her claim was finally corrected.

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